Slidell residents worry about sick dolphin

SLIDELL, LA (WVUE) - A popular sight in a canal in Slidell hasn't been seen for days, worrying area residents and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The wild dolphin that's been around for years, is sick and it has to do with the amount of rain the area has seen in recent weeks.

On a typical day in the canal behind Lakeshore Estates, boaters and jet skiers have company in the water. Resident Tony Goutierrez explains, "Every day he would come, under the boats, follow the boats and he was really good to have around for a while."

We captured footage of the wild dolphin in 2012. Living alone in the canal since Hurricane Katrina, the residents of Lakeshore Estates essentially adopted him. "He came in as a pup, mother was with him, mother disappeared and unfortunately he stayed back," said Goutierrez.

Residents tried to keep people from feeding him and protected the animal as much as they could as outsiders flocked to the canal hoping for a chance to see him and swim with him. But just last week, they started to notice the dolphin wasn't looking good.

"His skin was covered with green algae and ringworms and sores and things of that nature," explained resident Greg Walters.

According to marine biologists, salinity levels in the water are low because of recent rainfalls. The dolphin is showing signs of fresh water lesions.

Agents with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries have been out monitoring the situation. A spokesperson tells FOX 8 removing the dolphin from this body of water, would be the option of last resort.

"They said moving the dolphin could cause him more stress than the disease he had," said Walters.

The point may be moot. Walters says he hasn't seen the dolphin all weekend. "He's not in the water right now. He's either out there or something's wrong with him," Walters said, pointing to Lake Pontchartrain.

Many of the people who live along the water feel attached to the dolphin, after so many years. They're hoping he's ok. "It's sad if indeed something bad happened to the dolphin but if the low salinity levels caused him to relocate where he's out in Lake Borne with another pod of dolphins, then it could be a happy ending," said Walters.

Wildlife and Fisheries continue to monitor the salinity levels in the water. A spokesperson for the department says the condition the dolphin has, can be fatal.

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